Seeking a Sexting Buddy for the End of the World

To quell my quarantined hormones, I’ve been texting with flames old and new. The stakes seem low, but the fallout can sting like a motherf*cker.

When it comes to relationships, I am a complete and utter failure. Whether it’s a personal defect, the unrelenting hellscape that is dating as a queer man of color, or the caprices of an indifferent universe, I’ve been unable to trick any man into consistently showing up in my life and treating me with a modicum of respect and affection. When it comes to virtual relationships, however, I’m an old hand—mostly the right.

Dating apps and websites have erased traditional geographical boundaries in the dating world, expanding not only our pool of mates but also the definition of what constitutes a relationship. Under these curious modern circumstances, remote or long-distance correspondence has become both practical and necessary. That includes the romantic and the sexual.

During this coronavirus quarantine, I, like nearly every other gay, have been clawing at the walls. With hookup culture put on pause, I’ve been reconnecting with sext buddies, new and old, in hopes of calming my raging hormones. The process has reminded me of both the virtues and pitfalls of online-only dating. The stakes seem pretty low, but the fallout can sting like a motherfucker.

One of my first “serious” sext buddies was “Vinny.” When I was living in Brooklyn, he messaged me one night on Grindr, but I missed it until the following morning. When I finally saw him, large red cartoon heart balloons swelled in my eyes. I practically gave myself arthritis trying to respond fast enough. Sadly, he was only in town visiting his parents and was heading back upstate, but we exchanged numbers with the promise to keep in touch—and to my surprise and delight, we did.

He was sweet and hot and had good grammar—plus, he sent me a series of unsolicited but highly appreciated sexy pics—so I fell rather easily… and fell rather immediately into the most dangerous trap of these surreal-ationships: I took it seriously. I realized the person on the other end of these texts was a person with feelings and desires and a life I knew nothing about, really. It was more than just sexting for me, just as real sex is more than just sex for me.

See, I enter every situation with a man open to the possibility of more. And it’s exhausting. Which is probably why most guys don’t operate that way—why they treat sex as simply pleasure, or even a duty, rather than an opportunity. Feelings are spared, needs are met, and no one gets (too) hurt.

So if Vinny kept me at a distance—not just physically, but in the nature and frequency of our texts—then I was less real to him. His fervor, once effusive, for texting me dwindled for months until one day he told me, quite politely, that he was in a relationship. I was happy for him. The way one prisoner is happy to see a fellow inmate get out, even if he’s still stuck behind bars.

We continued some intermittent back-and-forth, but eventually, in a fit of self-respect, I deleted his number.

So imagine my surprise when Vinny suddenly texted me several years later out of the blue. We had started following each other on Instagram, though by that point we were not only in different cities but different states. After seeing something I had posted he texted me; my first thought was, He kept my number.

We chatted briefly, but that was the end of it. Further texts and DMs from me went ignored, so I did as one does when confronted with the specter of indifference: I took a hint, deleted his number yet again, and moved on.

But there’s nothing like a shelter-in-place order to get the thirst receptors firing on all gay cylinders. During my nth hour of mindlessly scrolling Instagram this past weekend, I stumbled (deliberately) upon his profile and thought, Why not? For old times’ sake…

I sent him a message—just a quick, “Hi, how have you been?”—that was left on “seen.” And so, never one to let anything go, I sent him another, passive-aggressive but ostensibly kind message wishing him the best. That, too, was left on “seen.”

It’s not like I could be mad at the guy. He didn’t owe me anything, and we’d never even met. All I had of him was a treasure trove of naked pics and videos before phone cameras got good that I occasionally turned to when I needed a good nostalgic wank.

Still, his indifference hurt my feelings. And I didn’t want it to because our trivial chats didn’t mean anything. At least not to him. But what did they mean to me?

Despite all of my past experience, I can’t help but want to believe in hackneyed things like “the best in people” and “love.” Not that what I felt for Vinny was love. No, I think I was just clinging to the possibility of whatever we had being something that wasn’t this. This gnawing emptiness that vacillates in size—in correlation with my belief in my dying alone and my apathy towards that particular fate—as I get older.

The loneliness of quarantine only exacerbates this longing. Yet, out of some stubborn defiance that refuses to be cowed by any man, I continue to hold out hope that one of these sext-based virtual relationships might actually be worthwhile.

For the past few months I’ve been sexting with a boy in Utah, “Dylan.” He’s easily one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever talked to—in real or digital life—and we’ve exchanged hundreds of texts and dozens of photos and videos. We have even developed cute pet names for one another. Plans for us to meet have been delayed by our schedules, finances, and now the apocalypse.

Things have gotten far more serious than I think either of us are comfortable with. However, we’ve discussed this unease, acknowledging the intrinsic weirdness of an online relationship but also the whole “you never know” of it all.

I hate that I can imagine a life with him because it just feels like I’m setting myself up for failure, yet again. Though this one feels different. He matches and often surpasses my ardor. When he gets too romantic, it freaks me out and I want to recoil. My mind starts racing down an imaginary path to the future: What if we meet and then the thrill is gone? What if we end up together? Is he the right one for me? Will I get bored? What if I outlive him? I will outlive him… will I have to start dating again after he’s dead?

We had a “date” last night—an idea that would’ve given me pause had I not spent nearly five hours the previous week having happy hour cocktails with friends scattered across different parts of the country. Our date consisted of us mostly staring into each other’s eyes and talking about our respective days. It was nice—and the closest thing to a date we’d have for a while. Though I’m sure we’ll meet at some point, who knows what will happen once we do?

But there’s no point in thinking about that, or all the other questions that race through my head at any given moment. The best thing I can do is just take it easy, recognize and accept the limitations of what we’re doing, and be realistic if cautiously optimistic.

We live in unorthodox times that require an unorthodox approach to love, sex, and relationships. Maybe these FaceTime and text romances are a temporary fix, or maybe this is how life will be from now on. Either way, I’ll have some good material to get off on as life stubbornly continues outside our doors.

And in the end, isn’t that all we can hope for in this ride we call life? To get off?

Lester Fabian Brathwaite is an LA-based writer, editor, bon vivant, and all-around sassbag. He's formerly Senior Editor of Out Magazine and is currently hungry. Insta: @lefabrat